March 20, 2014
The below letter was published in March 2014 in response to criticism of the PPP government from the opposition APNU. APNU stated were it to get elected it would divest Guysuco. When it came into power in May 2015, it proceeded to dismantle the estates, terminating some 8000K workers, affecting a further 40K people who normally supported PPP. Ironically, Indian sugar workers voted for APNU to remove the PPP from office in May 2015. They received no thanks from APNU that proceeded to close down the industry, putting them out of work.
Is the question of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) more about politics or economics? Let’s consider the following. Advocates have arisen to close down GuySuCo on economic grounds.
Why the pretence about the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government spending billions of dollars where Guyanese sugar workers are employed?
Since Dr Clive Thomas of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has now emerged as a most strident critic on behalf of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), which is strongly opposed to sugar, its workers’ welfare and Guyana’s economy, can much be left for imagination?
What, therefore, makes ethanol or aquaculture the best viable alternative after GuySuCo? What are the motives of those stories behind the story to close the industry?
There is no question in my mind that the Opposition APNU and the Alliance For Change (AFC) want to destroy GuySuCo because the PPP/C’s political base is employed in sugar production.
How are those workers to be gainfully redeployed? Must Guyana’s most experienced and skilful agricultural workforce be terminated, leading to certain starvation in Guyana and export revenue? Agriculture is every country’s national security.
Self-promoting People’s National Congress (PNC) sugar expert Tony Vieira claims it’s time to switch from sugar to ethanol and fish farming. But there is no indication how much expenditure or land is to be allotted from sugar to ethanol or even fish farming.
By switching to ethanol, all the Guyanese machinery and vehicles will have to be converted to ethanol consumption. Brazil uses ethanol based on its domestic pre-built machinery and technology. Obviously, the Guyana changeover will be costly and, inevitably, cause sugar workers to be retrenched with compensation packages.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Indian-based United National Congress (UNC) Government, led by Basdeo Panday, had the first opportunity to resolve the sugar workers’ issues, but instead squandered it and allowed the People’s National Movement (PNM) to trump them.
After the PNM, led by Patrick Manning, took over from the UNC Government, it rapidly moved to destroy that party. The sugar industry started to decline and the PNM swiftly proceeded to shut it down by promising workers private land plots for agriculture with a signed agreement. But Manning’s PNM never honoured the agreement mainly because the mostly Indo-Trinidadian workers supported the UNC. Guyana’s PPP/C Government must now decide how it will resolve Guyanese workers’ problems especially as it affects its base.
Trinidad’s sugar lands were not subsequently used for agriculture anyway. The PNM instead built taxpayer-funded housing projects on those lands and distributed them mostly to its supporters
The PNM Government completely ignored their non-payment of loans, rents and utility bills, as they were mostly serving as PNM voters’ bank in the targeted constituency.
After the UNC coalition Government led by Kamla Persad-Bissesar regained power in a landslide victory in 2010, it began to distribute scarce leftover lands to sugar workers for agriculture and poultry rearing, etc. With food now the highest expenditure on its import bill, Trinidad is about to drastically cut down its (TT$4 billion) expenses by large-scale food production in Guyana following Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Opposition parties in Guyana, on the other hand, insist on destroying Guyana’s agricultural base because of political vendettas.
Guyana’s PPP/C Government must, therefore, be very mindful of the Opposition’s desire to shut down GuySuCo. It must not allow Guyanese workers to suffer because of PPP/C’s negligence or because Indo-Guyanese are considered a guilty race by presence or numbers.
Unless the PPP/C Government resolves the issues surrounding GuySuCo, which ensures the viability of Guyana’s agriculture and survival of its supporters, it, inevitably, will become condemned and be held accountable. Sugar cannot await resolution when the party is not in government.